Effects Of Idol Immersion On The Water Quality Parameters of Indian Water Bodies: Environmental Health Perspectives


“Why can’t we understand what Allahabad High Court has decided in regard to idol immersion in rivers like Ganges, Yamuna, Saryu, Kolar and southern northern lakes of Bangalore is logically based on several tests conducted by various toxicology depts., BHU, AU, University of Hinguchix, Japan, independent river scientists. This is my attempt to save the lifeline of Indian plains, environment and so, the life of people who dies just because of contamination which has now enter in our food chain. It is a calamity and not a joke. Remember Ganges is now on 3rd position of most polluted water bodies in world.

Below is a collective and organized reports of toxicity
conducted in various rivers.


Toxic Faith

— by
Shabab Khan

India is a rich cultural country  in which diverse cultural and religious festivals are organized. Idol is an image of a  god which is used as an object  of worship. 

After worshipped,these idols  are immersed into water bodies. Idols are constructed by  plaster of paris, clay, cloths,  small iron rods, bamboo and decorated with different paints  such as varnish, water colors  etc. which can lead to significant alteration in the water quality after immersion.

Paints which are used to color these idols contains various heavy metals such as Mercury, Cadmium,Arsenic,Zinc,Chromiumand Lead.

Particularly, red, blue, orange  and green colours contain  mercury,  zinc  oxide,  chromium  and  lead, which  are  potent  carcinogens. Two  heavy  metals  such  as  Lead  and Chromium  also  add  in  the  water bodies  through  Sindoor  (a  traditional  red  colored  cosmetic  powder,  usually  worn  by  married  women and  often  used  in  the  festivals).  The  floating  materials  released  through  idol  in  the  river  and  lake  after decomposition  result  in  eutrophication,  increase  in  acidity  and  heavy  metal  concentration.

Heavy metal  pollution  caused  by  idol  immersion  can damage the  ecosystem as it kills fishes, amphibians, damages plants, blocks the natural flow of the water, causing stagnation.

The effects of idol immersion on various water bodies of India like Bhoj Wetlands, Budha Balanga river, Ganges river, Hussainsagar lake, Kolar river, Saryu river, Tapi river, Chhatri lake, north and west  lakes of  Bangalore and  Yamuna river have been observed  so  far.

Investigations  were  carried  out  to  find  out  the  effects  of  immersion  of  idols  on water  quality  by  collecting  and  analyzing  the  water  samples  from  the  immersion  sites  of  the  rivers. The  samplings  were  done  before  the  immersion,  on  the  day  of  immersion  and  after  the  event  and several  parameters like Temperature,  pH, Dissolved Oxygen, BOD,  Dissolved CO2, Conductivity, Salinity, Alkalinity, TDS, Total  Hardness, Chlorides  etc. are  estimated. Most  of  the  studies  found horrible changes in the water quality parameters during  and after immersions. Central  Pollution Control  Board  has  formulated  guidelines  on  the  practice  of  idol  immersion  in  water  bodies,  which should be followed for controlling pollution.


[Figure 2: Durga Worshipped Idol is intact even after10 days of immersion rituals]

In India, lots  of  idols  are  worshipped  with  all  rituals  in  different  time  in  a  year. The  time  span  of these  kinds  of  festivals  may  vary  from  one  and  half  day  to  five  days,  seven  days  or  ten  days. After  worshipped,  these  idols  are  immersed  (Figure  1,  2)  into  water  bodies.  Among  the significant  Indian  festivals,  some  important  examples  are Durga puja,  Jagadhatri puja, Laxmi puja, Tazia, Ganesh  puja  etc. In  which the incidences of idol immersions can be  observed. Thousands  of Ganesh and Durga idols of various sizes  reaching  heights upto 20 to 40 feet are immersed every year in different  water  bodies[2].


[Figure 5: A Tazia is getting ready to make it settle on various Imam Chowks for 10 days. On Ashoora, the Muharram 10th is remembered as a day of Great Martyrdoms of Imam Hussain and his whole family of 72 divine souls. Ashura is observed with sense of great lose, in the evening Tazia, as you can see it is made of thin sticks of green bamboo, papers and wheat based glue.]

These idols are made by  plaster of paris, clay, cloths,  small iron rods, bamboo and decorated with different paints  such as varnish, water colors  etc.[3].

Plaster  of  Paris  (POP),  which  is  cheaper  and  lighter,  has  become the  favoured  material  to  mould  these  idols.  POP  contains  chemicals  such  as  phosphorus, gypsum, sulphur,  and magnesium. These idols are  decorated  with  plastic  and  thermocols.  Out of  the  all  materials used in making  the  idol,  thermocol  and  plastic  is  non  bio-degradable, hence  are  toxic[4].

Most  importantly,  paints  which  are  used  to  colour  these  idols  contains various heavy metals such as Mercury, Cadmium, Arsenic, Zinc, Chromium and lead. Particularly,  red,  blue,  orange  and  green  colours  contain  mercury,  zinc  oxide,  chromium  and lead,  which  are  potent  carcinogens [5]. 

Two  heavy  metals  such  as  Lead  and  Chromium  also add  in  the  water  bodies  through  Sindoor  (a  traditional  red  or  orange-red  colored  cosmetic powder  from  India,  usually  worn  by  married  women  along  the  parting  of  their  hair,  often  used in  the  festivals,  especially  in  Durga Puja). Lead  and Chromium are very toxic  even  in  very small  quantity  for  human  being  through  the  process  known  as  Bio accumulation  and Bio magnifications[6].

Through  food  chains,  these  heavy  metals  can  enter  into  the  living systems  (may  be  directly  incorporated  through  the  digestive  tract  due  to  the  consumption  of contaminated  water  or  food,  or  through  non-dietary  routes  across  permeable  membranes  such as  gills)[7].

Immersion of these idols poisons the waters of lakes, rivers and the sea by increasing acidity and the content of heavy metals.  Heavy metal pollution caused  by idol immersion can damage the ecosystem as it kills fishes, damages plants, blocks the natural flow of the water, causing stagnation. It damages  health  of  human beings  also  by  polluting drinking  water  sources, causing  breathing  problems, blood and skin diseases [5]. When  these  idols  are  immersed  in  the  water,  these  constituting  components  lead  to significant  alteration  in  the  water  quality.  The  floating  materials  released  through  idol  in  the river  and  lake  after  decomposition  result  in  eutrophication  of  the  river,  lake  etc.  [8].  Nondegradable  metals  and  organic  pollutants  tend  to  accumulate  in  various  vital  organs  of  fishes and lead  to long  term toxic effects. They  also induce structural  and functional abnormalities in different  organs  of  fishes  and  humans  [9].  However, amidst  the  celebrations,  people  tend  to forget  the  ill  effects  of  the  practice.  The  most  serious  impact  of  idol  immersion  is  on  the environment.  It  disturbs  the  ecological  balance  by  polluting  water  and  adversely  affecting  the flora  and  fauna. 

The  requirement  of  water  is  in  all lives, from  micro organisms  to  man,  is  a serious  problem  today  because  all  water  resources  have  been  reached  to  a  point  of  crisis  due to unplanned urbanization and  industrialization[10]. But  nowadays, idol immersion is  another significant  cause  of  water pollution. Later, in this  review,  the  effects  of  idol  immersion  on  various water  bodies of India like Bhoj wetlan Budhabalanga river, Ganges, Hussainsagar lake, Kolar  river,  Sarayu river, Tatpi river. Marine and  fresh water  bodies,  Chhatri  lake,  north and west lakes of Bangalore and  Yamuna river are highlighted.


Paint  is  any  liquid liquefiable,  or  mastic  composition  that, after  application  to a  substrate  in  a  thin  layer,  converts  to  a  solid  film.  It  is  most commonly  used  to  protect color or  provide  texture  to objects.  After  detailing  work  over  the  prepared  idol  is  sent  for  painting process[11].

In  its  most  basic  form,  paint  consists  of  color  (the  pigment)  and  the  glue  in which  the  pigment  is  suspended  (the  binder). Many paints also contain  ingredients  that  add texture  and  bulk(fillers),  a  thinner  (the  solvent) and other  additives, such as biocides and drying catalysts[11].

Pigments:  Safer  alternatives  to  the  toxic  compounds  and  heavy  metals  used  to  color conventional  paint  include natural  pigments  derived  from  plants,  insects,  iron  oxides  and minerals. These  are  usually  in  powder form[11].

Binders:  Binders  keep  paint  glued  to  a  surface. The  acrylic  and  vinyl  binders  in  commercial paints  are  derived  from  the  by-products  of  refining  crude  oil.  The  binders  in  natural  paints rely  instead  on  materials  such  as  starch  (from  flour),  casein  (the  protein  in  milk)  and  linseed oil  (from pressed  flax  seeds)[11].

Fillers:  Fillers  create  texture  and  add  bulk  to  paint.  Common  fillers  include  whiting (powdered  chalk),  talcum,  limestone,  silica  and  marble.  Clay  is  a  popular  filler  to  pair  with flour,  because  it  reinforces  the  binding  ability  of  starch,  and  it’s  abundant  and  potentially  free if  you have clay soil[11].

Solvents:  Solvents, or thinners, help achieve a workable  consistency. The solvents in commercial paints are usuall made from organic materials,  but they will evaporate or “outgas,”  causing  that  new  paint  smell.  The  outgassing  of  these  volatile  organic  compounds (VOCs)  can  cause  headaches,  nausea,  dizziness,  blurred  vision  and  fatigue,  especially  in  areas that  are  not  well  ventilated.  The  hazards  are  significantly  worse  for  people  who  paint regularly. Natural  solvents such as  citrus thinners and  natural  turpentine  are  preferable,  but they  can still emit  low levels of VOCs[11].

Additives:  Commercial  paint  manufacturers  frequently  include  several  additives  in  their products,  but  they  aren’t  required  to  list  them  on  the  can. Additives  include  plasticizers, foaming and anti foaming agents, driers,  biocides that inhibit the  growth of mold, and ingredients that improve  water resistance  or  opacity[11]. Figure  3  shows  the  half  made idols and 4 shows a painter is painting an idol:


Figure 3


[Figure 4]

When Idol immersed in water  bodies then lots of paints which  are  used  making of  idol, those  paints  are  also  add  into  water  bodies.  These  paints  do  not  dissolve  easily  in  the  water bodies.  Also  these  paints  are  contains  of  various  heavy  metals  such  as  Mercury,  Lead, Arsenic,  Cadmium,  Chromium  and  Zinc  etc.

Through  food  chain  these  heavy  metals  get  into human  bodies.  These  heavy  metals  have  lots  of  adverse  effect  on  human  bodies.  Here  are some effects  of  some  heavy  metals are  mentioned  below.

Mercury  (Hg): Mercury  pollution  can  be a serious health threat,  especially for children and pregnant women. Humans risk ingesting  dangerous  levels  of  mercury when they eat contaminated  fish. Since  mercury is odourless, invisible  and accumulates in the meat  of the fish,  it  is  not  easy  to  detect  and  can’t  be  avoided  by  trimming  off  the  skin  or  other  parts.  Even in  low  doses,  mercury  may  affect  a  child’s  development,  delaying  walking  and  talking, shortening  attention  span  and  causing  learning  disabilities.  Less  frequent,  high  dose  prenatal and  infant  exposures  to  mercury  can  cause  mental  retardation,  cerebral  palsy,  deafness  and blindness.  In  adults,  mercury  poisoning  can  adversely  affect  fertility  and  blood  pressure regulation  and  can  cause  memory  loss,  tremors,  vision  loss  and  numbness  of  the  fingers  and toes. A  growing  body  of  evidence  suggests  that  exposure  to  mercury  may  also  lead  to  heart disease [12].

Cadmium (Cd): A by-product of zinc  production is Cadmium.  Cadmium is primarily toxic to the kidney; especially to the  proximal tubular cells are the  main  sites  of  accumulation. Cadmium  can  also  cause  bone  demineralization,  either  through  direct  bone  damage  or indirectly  as  a  result  of  renal  dysfunction. Cadmium  is  primarily  toxic  to  the  kidney, especially  to  the  proximal  tubular  cells,  the  main site of accumulation[13].  Drinking water with very  high cadmium levels severely  irritates the stomach, leading  to  vomiting  and diarrhoea,  and  sometimes  death. Eating  lower  levels  of  cadmium  over a long period of time can  lead to a build-up of cadmium  in  the  kidneys.  If  the  levels  reach  a  high  enough  level,  the cadmium  in  the  kidney  will  cause  kidney  damage,  and  also  causes  bones  to  become  fragile and break  easily[14].


Water pollution occurs due to the discharge of municipal sewage both domestic and industrial without any treatment which brings considerable changes in the river water quality in addition to many religious activities now became a threat to the ecosystem [20,21].

Traditionally, idol immersion activities are going on in our country. After idol immersion, materials which are used in idol making that do not dissolve easily in water, thereby reducing the oxygen level and psycho chemical characters are become changed in the water bodies. The changes in the water quality parameters in the major water bodies in India due to idol immersion.

…shabab khan
(Author is an Export Entrepreneur, Journalist, Engineer and Social Activist for Cruelty Against Animals!

Credits & References:

[1] Idol. Accessed on 29/5/2014, accessed from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/idol.
[2] Reddy V.M., Kumar V.A. Effect of Ganesh idol immersion on some water quality parameter of Hussain Sagar. Current Science,1412-1413.
[3] Dhote S., Varghese B., Mishra S.M. 2001. Impact of idol immersion on water quality of twin lakes of Bhopal. Indian Journal of Environment Protection 21,pp.998-1005.
[4] Bhat N.A., Wanganeo R., Wanganeo A. 2012. Pollution Status of Bhoj Wetland before and after Immersion of Idols. 5(1), 154-156.
[5] The times of india. Idols’ immersion adds to Ganga’s pollution. Accessed on 30/05/2014, accessed from http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/Idols-immersion-adds-toGangas-pollution/articleshow/16964313.cms.
[6] Bibicz, M. 1982. Heavy metal in the aquatic environment of some water bodies of the Lublin basin, Actuatic Hydrobiology, 24, 125-138.
[7] Handy R.D. 1993. The accumulation of dietary aluminium by rainbow trout oncorhynchus my kiss at high exposure concentrations. Journal of Fish Biology 42(4), 603-606.
[8] Leland, H.V. 1991. Transport and distribution of trace elements in a watershed ecosystem in environment. Boggess, W.R., and Wixsion, B.G. Eds. Castle House Publication, pp. 105-134.
[9] Gupta, P. and N. Srivastava. 2006 Effects of sub- lethal concentrations of zinc on histological changes and bioaccumulation of zinc by kidney of fish Channa punctatus (Bloch). J. Environ. Biol., 27, 211-215.
[10] Singh S.P., Pathak D. and Singh R.2002. Hydrobiological studies of two ponds of Satna (MP), India, Eco. Evn. And Cons., 8(3), 289-292.
[11] Ecoeist. Water pollution caused by toxic chemical paints. Accessed on 28/05/2014, accessed from http://e-coexist.com/products/ganesh-chaturthi/ganesh-2010/waterpollution-caused-by-toxic-chemical-paints. [12] Natural resources defence council. Accessed on 30/05/2014, accessed from http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/mercury/effects.asp.
[13] Cadmium & its adverse effects on human health. Accessed on 30/05/2014, accessed from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19106447.
[14] The encyclopaedia of earth. Accessed on 30/05/2014, accessed from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/153344/.
[15] Lenntech. Accessed on 30/05/2014, accessed from http://www.lenntech.com/ periodic /elements/as.htm
[16] Bhattacharya, S., Gupta, K., Debnath, S., Ghosh, U.C., Dhrubajyoti Chattopadhyay, Aniruddha Mukhopadhyay, Toxicolology and Environmental Chemistry 94(3) (2012) 429-441.
[17] The effect of too much Zinc. Accessed on 31/05/2014, accessed from http://www.livestrong.com/article/29333-effects-much-zinc/
[18] Health Effects of Lead Exposure. Accessed on 01/06/2014, accessed from https://public.health.oregon.gov/HealthyEnvironments/HealthyNeighborhoods/LeadPois oning/MedicalProvidersLaboratories/Documents/introhealtheffectsmedicalprovider.pdf.
[19] Lenntech. Accessed on 01/06/2014, accessed from http: //www.lenntech.com/periodic /elements/pb.htm.
[20] Bajpai A., Pani S., Jain R.K., Mishra S.M. 2003. Heavy metal concentration through idol immersion in a tropical lake, Eco. Env. And Cons., 8(2), 157-159.
[21] Ujjain N.C., Azhar A.M. 2011. Impact of Ganesh Idol Immersion Activities on the Water Quality of Tapi River, Surat (Gujarat) India, Research Journal of Biology, 01(01), 11-15.

Please follow for the next release regarding effects on rivers of India.
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About Shabab Khan

A Journalist, Philanthropist; Author of 'The Magician', 'Go!', 'Brutal'. Being a passionate writer, I am into Journalism and writing columns, news stories, articles for top media house. Twitter: @khantastix khansworld@rediffmail.com
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